Latex Allergy: Causes & Symptoms

Natural rubber latex carries certain proteins that lead to adverse effects while in contact with human skin at times. These reactions are generally termed as “latex allergy”. The allergy manifests itself in the form of itches all around the skin & hives. Sometimes, in extreme situations it can cause anaphylaxis. It’s a condition in which the throat swells up considerably, resulting in difficulty to breathe properly.

If one has experienced such symptoms or is interested to know more as precaution, it is important to first understand what latex allergy is, what causes it & the sources where latex can be found.

Cause of latex allergy

The immune system of a person with latex allergy is going to identify latex as a harmful substance & automatically trigger an antibody against it. And, that further leads to  inevitable reactions to any & all exposure to or contact with latex or products containing it.

These reactions are the cause of histamine & other chemicals being released into the bloodstream while one comes in contact with a latex substance. The intensity of the allergic reactions eventually lessen with each time one is exposed to latex through a process called sensitization. It’s a process where due to the presence of previously existing antibodies, the total damage done to the system is largely absorbed by the antibodies.

The two ways that an allergic reaction to Latex can happen are:-

  1. Direct Contact- Mostly, allergic reaction to latex takes place through direct contact with regular everyday materials like condoms, balloons or gloves made of latex.
  2. Inhalation-Latex products let out latex particles into the air, which travel & can be inhaled by allergic person(s), leading to a reaction.

The intensity of the allergy found in people can vary in degrees ranging from mild to severe. The intensity depends on how the latex has come in contact with the allergy inflicted person & how long the exposure to it was.

Symptoms of latex allergy

Let’s go over some of the common symptoms on the basis of intensity.

Mild symptoms include:

  • Itching,
  • Hives,
  • Skin irritation & redness.

Severe symptoms:

  • Sneezing,
  • Running nose,
  • Scratchy throat,
  • Itchy eyes,
  • Cough

The two types of symptoms listed above are indications of latex allergy but they don’t pose a significant threat in terms of creating a life or death situation if treated properly & in time.
However, in the most severe cases, the affected person may experience anaphylaxis and it could be a life-threatening issue. Anaphylaxis generally happens from a repeated exposure to latex and is mostly observed in over-sensitive persons.

Anaphylaxis is marked by symptoms similar but overarching to the one’s found in mild latex allergies, for example:

  • Nausea,
  • Drop in blood pressure,
  • Wheezing,
  • Drop in blood pressure,
  • Skin irritation & itching,
  • Confusion,
  • And in extreme cases, loss of consciousness.

Remedy & prevention

In cases of mild allergy, an anti-allergic & a conversation with a doctor to find quick remedies should be enough.

In the case of something like anaphylaxis, emergency medical consultation should be sought immediately. It’s an extreme case and as mentioned previously, could lead to fatal results. A correct diagnosis is of utmost priority in situations like this.

About one third of those diagnosed with latex allergies haven’t shown any symptoms of it other than skin diagnoses till date. But if detected once, the patient should become increasingly alert & mindful of any situation where latex exposure can be possible.  Alongside, he should take preventive measures to prevent possible interaction latex beforehand. In the case of high sensitivity, anaphylactic shocks can be very likely because of the mucosal absorption of latex protein allergens from communication with latex.

Therefore, the first & most important step for latex allergy patients is to ensure a latex-free treatment.  Careful attention should be taken to avoid any material containing any trace of latex. Also, powder free latex gloves should be used to prevent airborne exposure to latex.

Latex allergy affects thousands of people. These persons experience IgE-mediated cutaneous, respiratory, and systemic allergic reactions. A reduction of the total protein level on latex rubber devices may prevent further sensitization and eliminate latex allergic reactions.